Early Headwaters Television collection, 1980-1984

1979 – 1984

Collection ap.ehc

Extent
60 Video cassettes
3 Video tapes
3 Linear feet paper
Scope and Contents
The Early Headwaters Television collection consists of 30-minute long programs produced primarily by Appalshop for the first five years of the Headwaters Television series between 1980 and 1984. The programs covered three major categories: documentation of community groups involved in the efforts for social change; documentation of persons undocumented elsewhere whose lives are of regional significance; and documentation of ordinary people who articulate what life was like in the region in years past.Collection cataloger: Heather Fox.
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Historical Note
In 1980, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, Appalshop launched a weekly television series on the local NBC affiliate in Hazard, Kentucky, WKYH-TV. The series was called Headwaters, a title suggested by acclaimed novelist Gurney Norman as a cultural metaphor inspired by the many rivers that originate in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. Most of the shows were two-person productions consisting of a sound recordist and a cameraperson. The first programs were limited to those produced in WKHY’s studio, but later in the first season Headwaters acquired ¾-inch U-matic location equipment and in-house editing equipment and began producing documentaries outside the studio setting. The majority of programs were produced by Appalshop, with occasional programming provided by local media makers affiliated with Appalshop.

A mixture of folk arts, local affairs and music, Headwaters programs covered three major categories: documentation of community groups involved in the efforts for social change (including such issues as toxic waste, strip mining, economic development, and education); documentation of persons undocumented elsewhere whose lives are of regional significance; and documentation of ordinary people who articulate what life in the region was like in years past. Designed as an experiment in community-based television, Headwaters offered commercial free programs of local interest on commercial television. With this “community directed” media approach, community groups and individuals helped to steer the programs, telling filmmakers where to go, what their priorities should be, and participating in the editing process. The first few seasons included programs about women miners, Vietnam veterans in Appalachia, the historical Bybee Pottery, and local-turned national folk legend Jean Ritchie.

Marty Newell and Paul Congo were the original producers of Headwaters. The first few years of programming included original live studio programs with musical performances and interviews. Anne Lewis joined as co-director in late1983. At that point Headwaters mounted 26 1/2 hours a year and mailed 3/4" Umatic dubs to cable stations. Some of the programming was packaged Appalshop films, as one of the project's intentions was to reach wider audiences for Appalshop films..

During the 1983-84 season, Headwaters continued to be shown on WKHY, but it also added several other affiliates. Each program was shown over Telecable of Lexington for one week at a variety of times, and also on Cable 10, Frankfort, Kentucky. In addition, Headwaters distributed programs to Storer Cable in Bowling Green, C.C.C.C. in Bellevue, Kentucky, and to a cable system in Paducah, Kentucky. In 1984, Appalshop video makers expanded the scope and audience for Headwaters by partnering with Kentucky Educational Television (KET) to air the programs statewide. PBS stations in West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee also joined in broadcasting Headwaters.

Despite their limited budgets, the programs captured legends such as Gary Stewart, Hazel Dickens, and Sheila Kay Adams (then Barnhill).  Anne Lewis, who was influenced by the guerilla television movement of the 1970s and had worked on Barbara Kopple's Harlan County, USA, used Headwaters to produce and program content that explores social justice, labor, and women's issues, as well as shows celebrating regional culture.  

By 1984, improved video technology was purchased and as production values improved, Headwaters Video productions began to be distributed as Appalshop Films. Meanwhile, the television distribution network developed by Headwaters helped traditionally-film produced Appalshop documentaries to get an established brand for television broadcast. Today Appalshop continues to distribute its documentary productions to PBS affiliates as Headwaters programming.
Physical Description
The majority of programs in this collection are pm 3/4" Umatic cassettes, with a few on 1" open reel. Development materials and correspondence are often mixed with Institutional Paper records and producers' papers from this period, however there are some program-specific files for later (83-84) Headwaters programs.
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